Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK Blogfest

I hope this video works. It's my favorite speech from Martin Luther King Jr. on serving.

Beverly Diehl of Writing in the Flow is hosting an MLK Blogfest to discuss racism and discrimination today. It's a holiday in the United States to remember the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who used non-violence as a way to eliminate poverty, racism and violence.

I grew up in the South long after the battles of the Civil Rights movement. These are a few thoughts that came to mind when I considered the MLK Blogfest.

In my hometown:
The KKK sometimes visited to hold a rally on the town square. I'm not sure why. The community was all-white, so I guessed they wanted to make sure it stayed that way. Now, the community is less white as it has a growing Hispanic population from Mexico and Central America. The agriculture community attracted migrant workers and many stayed.

Last fall, a KKK group held a rally on the square and many residents came out to say: We don't want you here.

At University:
In college, my sister and I shared a dorm room. Friends visited often. One friend, a black male, irked the frat, white boyfriends of  girls in the dorm. We discovered nasty and racist remarks scrawled on our door's message board. No one in our dorm knew what to do about the messages. We were two white girls. Was it an act of racism, if the remarks were directed at white girls?

When we had our winter break to observe Martin Luther King's birthday, I traveled with friends to visit The King Center in Atlanta, Ga. It was the only logical thing to do that year.


In Italy:
I studied Italian in a summer abroad program in Florence. The international school was filled with students from across Europe. One day, the civil classroom turned a bit angry as all the students criticized the United States for its history of slavery and segregation. I didn't defend the past, but thought the present looked pretty good in comparison.

The classroom discussion was different than my personal experience in Florence. I spoke to everyone in the piazza's. If someone said, "Ciao!" and wanted to talk — I did. A few times, I spoke to North African immigrants.

My Italian house mother was mortified when the subject of Africans came up. Later when an Italian friend was picking me up, she forbid him from coming to the door thinking he was African.

In 2005, when riots in France highlighted racial discrimination of African and Muslim immigrants, I thought about those students, who frowned on the United States as being intolerant. It still exists.

In South Africa:
While the apartheid system of racial segregation ended in 1994, you could see signs of racial discrimination in South Africa when I visited in 2006. In Johannesburg, I visited the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum. The 12-year-old boy died in 1976 when South African police fired on students during a Soweto uprising.

After the museum, I visited a section of the slums. I wrote a little about the visit here.

In a Border Town: 
Years later, I moved to a Texas border town. Here, I was a minority — called an Anglo by some. The majority were either Mexicans or of Mexican descent. Some adults didn't know English. The first time I went to the post office. I had my "Dorothy moment." I wasn't in Kansas. I was in a different territory of the United States.

Here, I understood how one could live in the United States and not speak English. I took a Spanish class before we moved, but lost interest in learning the language after the third or fourth time a clerk speaking Spanish switched to English as I approached her.

A day with the U.S. Border Patrol gave me a new insight into how hard it is come into the United States illegally. I shared a little about the border here.

Stories of discrimination — past and present — break my heart. On days like today, I think about the victories to remove racial discrimination and hate from our society.

The Perfect Picture Book Fridays series has highlighted several picture books that focus on the civil rights movement. These interested me:


Whether today is a day of rest, reflection or service, I hope you have a wonderful Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

49 comments:

  1. I soooo appreciated these personal reflections, Stacey. Having lived and worked in MANY different nations, including apartheid South Africa, I have discovered that racism is a sad reality in every culture on earth! Perhaps some nations have a more bloody history to relate, perhaps not? Certainly slavery is very ancient indeed :(

    Most definitely the Italians and French struggle with their attitude towards their North African and Eastern European populations.

    I certainly have had some strong anti white experiences in Africa, and anti German (when they thought I was German and not British) in France.

    I think three experiences have been the most distressing for me with regards to racism:
    a) Visiting Nazi death camps, such as Dachau.
    b) Working in townships in apartheid South Africa
    c) Like you, Stacey, when friends of different color have been abased.

    Clearly, I know my own nation continues to have its racist problems and the question of immigration, often at the heart of this, is not an easy one.

    Really enjoyed your post.

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  2. A lovely thoughtful post. This is Susan at Pen and Ink. I grew up in a lot of places. Capetown, South Africa 1954-1956. I was 11 when I got there and I'd never seen racism before. I was horrified. I came back to the US in 1956. That's when little Rock happened. In 1958 I moved to Atlanta, GA. I was there during bus integration. In 1961-1964 I attended the University of Georgia, It has been integrated the year before I started there by Charlene and Walter. During the 1970's I lived in Mobile Alabama, and Jackson Mississippi.
    We've come a long way in one sense. When I seen the racial hatred still present in this world, I know we have a long way to go. But I have faith in my fellow humans. I know we are going to get there.

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  3. Great post, Stacy. You have lots of examples there. I haven't seen quite that much. I know there are a lot of issues with migrants in England and part of that will be racist. Thanks for telling us all about Martin Luther King Day.

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  4. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences.

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  5. Thanks so much for this very thoughtful post, Stacy. I wonder if a time will ever come when discrimination is a thing of the past. The only thing I'd like to add is that today Pat posted an extra Perfect Picture Book - One Million Men and Me - which is a wonderful choice for MLK day. It's been added to Friday's list if you'd like to read about it.

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  6. Stacy, so interesting to learn about your experiences with racism in different cultures and countries. It's always different - and always the same.

    Loved the MLK clip on what being great means.

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  7. Stacy,
    When I opened your post in my e-mail, I had to respond. Iwas so happy and inspired that you included the MLK video. But, I was very moved with the thoughtful personal experiences you shared on this important day. We all need to take time to reflect. And, I enjoyed the sharing of others. As children of the 50s and 60s, it was hard to be vocal. I hated visiing relatives in the south as a child and remember the racism very clearly. I had so many experiences, that it influenced my choices later in life. And, I hear the similar theme running through other comments. Excellent post. Thank you for sharing so much.

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  8. Interesting post, this was really useful. thanks!

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  9. @Joanna- I appreciate you sharing your experiences.
    @Susan - We attended UGA at different times, but in some ways, some things had not changed. Capetown during that period must have been shocking.
    @Catherine - There are a lot of unresolved issues in Europe.
    @Carol-Thanks for taking the time to read them. It's a long post today.
    @Susanna - I added the One Million Men and Me book. Thanks for the heads up.
    @Beverly - I appreciate you hosting this blogfest. I wouldn't have written this without your idea to talk about these issues. I love King's message about service.
    @Pat - I can't imagine visting the south during that period. Thanks for the book selections. I added the One Million Men and Me book to the list.

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  10. Thank you so much for this post, Stacy. Our nations have come a long way, but we obviously still have a long way to go.

    Canada has often claimed not to have a race problem, yet African-American friends coming here in the 60s had trouble finding housing. Apartments were available when they phoned about them, but were suddenly "already rented" when they went to look at them. We've come a long way since the 1960s, where African-heritage people are concerned, but ask a First Nations (native) person about racism and you'll hear that we have a very long way to go.

    I, too, have posted (briefly) about MLK Day today. It is an important time to pause and reflect whether or not one's country observes the day officially.

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  11. I enjoyed your reflections very much, and on this day, like other days, wish things were different, and they are better because of Dr. King, but still not perfect. I am fortunate to have had a grandmother who forced integration in our school even before the Civil Rights Act in the small town where I grew up. I didn't know much about how bad things could be until I was older & witnessed some racist acts and remarks in college. Thank goodness my whole family showed me tolerance and love for all people. They made it easy for me to question and confront when I thought it was needed.

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  12. Stacy, up in Canada, we have our racism issues, too. But since I don't travel a lot, it was interesting to read your take on the issues in other areas of the world. One would think that in today's progessive society, this would be a non-issue. Sadly, I suppose it will still be here hundreds of years from now.

    Thanks for the terrific post!

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  13. Sadly, as you have shared, we can find racism wherever we hang our hat. I lived in the UK for several years and found similar, although the reasons were different. I quite enjoyed your post, it reminded me of my own travels and experiences. Thanks for telling us about yours, powerful and poignant.

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  14. @Beth - True. It's a great day to reflect.
    @Linda - What a wonderful story about your grandmother. Family makes a huge difference in how we act and accept others.
    @Sheila - I wish it were a non-issue. Maybe one day.
    @Brenda - Glad you enjoyed it.

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  15. Wow, really fascinating to read about your experiences! Thanks for sharing.

    ~Debbie

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  16. I loved reading all your personal experiences and relating them to MLK Jr day.

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  17. I am a memoir enthusiast. Please let me know when your's comes out. & thanks for sharing.

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    1. I'm still writing. Then revisions. It will be awhile. I love personal stories too. I always learn something new when someone shares their experiences.

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  18. These are really thought-provoking stories. My favourite has to be:

    Last fall, a KKK group held a rally on the square and many residents came out to say: We don't want you here.

    What an empowering moment! I'm going to check out the picture books you've listed. Thanks for sharing!

    Claudine
    http://www.carryusoffbooks.com/blog.html

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    1. Yes. I was proud to hear this had happened in my hometown.

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  19. Thanks for sharing these Stacy. Racism ... it really upsets me. That's about as nice as I can put it. I think this is one of the most wonderful holidays we can celebrate, and for those that are living in the past - I hope they will broaden their minds and acceptance and look to the future. Personally, I think most people have, but I realize that there are people who are still racist out there. It kills me. I just can't understand it.*sigh*
    Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

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  20. I agree that it's a wonderful holiday to celebrate. Hope you had a great day.

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  21. What a thoughtful post. What people claim to believe often is different from reality.

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  22. Hey girlfriend!!!!!!!!!!!! I loved reading this! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was so very moving, Stac. I heart you, friend. Always and forever.

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  23. An excellent day for these sorts of reflections. Thanks for sharing them.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. I think MLK Day is a great day for service too.

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  24. Racism is not a thing of the past, and I do think it can go in both directions. I am sure every single person on the planet can recount stories similar to yours, which means we still have work to do.

    And yet, things ARE getting better. As long as we are moving in the right direction, I'm hopeful.

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  25. Hi there!

    I just wanted to let you know that I left you awards over at my blog!!

    Pop on over and get em' :)

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  26. You've really gotten to experience it in many different places. It's unfortunate that we are so flawed as a people that we are still so prejudice. I had a crazy Driver's Ed teacher in high school that used to share some of the craziest stories with us about his attempts to join the KKK. The thing was, he was Asian. None of those attempts ever worked out for him and he was full of interesting stories, or colorful bullsh*t. LOL

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  27. what a fascinating, global perspective on MLK day - I really enjoyed reading about your travels and experience of the day.

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  28. This is a wonderful post Stacy! We have made many strides in the discrimintaion area but are still so far. My seven year old daughter watched the MLK movie yesterday at school and came home happy that things had changed so much, but then this morning she said, "Mom, if things have changed so much, how come there are hardly any African Americans that live around here?" It made me sad, because we do talk a lot about how far we've come, and we have, but in a way, we still seperate ourselves from each other.
    Thanks for making us think:)

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  29. Thank you for sharing. Hopefully our future will get brighter!

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  30. Hi, Stacy! ~

    I enjoyed your reflections and personal stories in honor of MLK day. I particularly appreciate the way you simply describe your experiences, all around the world, without a lot of derogatory commentary about the 'bad guys'. Reminds me of the Spirit of MLK who promoted 'equality' not 'superiority'. Thank you!

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    1. There's been too much superiority in the world.

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  31. What a thoughtful post . . . I'm amazed at your memory and it made me think of my own examples. I won't go through them here, but thank for you providing the nudge to remember. It's important.

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    1. Thanks Nina. I like the idea that MLK Day makes us think and work to resolve issues that remain today.

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  32. Stacy, I thoroughly enjoyed your global perspective on race and how the same issues unfold all around the world. It sounds like we may have shared some similar experiences-particularly in South Africa. While we clearly how a long way to go, I like to think that at least we are heading in the right direction. Thanks for writing such a thoughtful post.

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  33. I enjoyed your reflection of your experience with racism and you had mention about a message written on the board of your dormitory and you did not know what you should of done about the message and now with your experience on life and racism what would you do if it was today that you saw that message

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    1. I would report it just like we did. I might be more pushy about getting the issue resolved. I still don't think the dorm officials handled it in the proper way.

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